How Long Does The Immigration Process Take? (6/10)

The Canadian Parliament In Ottawa

The Canadian Parliament In Ottawa

Welcome to my new series, “How to immigrate to Canada“!

I recently received quite a lot of emails, asking me questions about the immigration process. So I decided to explain the whole process in 10 posts, which will be published every Saturday.

I also encourage you to ask any question you may have. I’m not an immigration consultant, but from experience, I may be able to point you to the right direction!

In the series, we will see the different options you have to come to Canada, as well as your rights and duties as a Permanent Resident, what happens after you arrive etc.

Applicants main concern is often on how long the whole process takes. Unfortunately, there is no rule and no one can know for sure. However, there are some tricks to make sure your application is processed as fast as it can be!

How long does the immigration process take… roughly?

  • Most permanent resident applications, no matter in which category you apply, take from 6 to 12 months to be processed.
  • That said, some applications are processed much faster… I was one of the lucky applicants, I received the permanent resident in only 4 months!
  • On the other side, some applicants will wait for a few years.

Citizenship and Immigration provides tables indicating how many months were necessary to approve or refuse application at various visa offices around the world. You can check the processing time for application in Canada, outside Canada, and by categories, such as the skilled worker category or the family class category.

So, what’s taking so long?

Approving or refusing a permanent residence application is a long process. Immigration agents must check all documents and make a life-changing decision!

But many other factors affect the average application processing time:

How busy the local visa office is: some regions of the world receive more applications. For example, visa offices in Africa and the Middle East currently have the longest processing time for skilled worker applications. Not every country has a Canadian visa office and as a result, a central visa office may be responsible for several countries or region. For example, the Paris visa office is responsible for immigration applications for Algeria, Belgium, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Tunisia! Same goes for the London office which is responsible for Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen…!

The difficulty of the security check: there is a mandatory security check on all permanent resident applicants to prevent individuals who pose a risk to Canada’s security from entering the country. Its duration can be affected by such factors as military service, foreign trips, membership in political organizations etc. Some foreign countries cooperate better with Canada than others and sometimes, background checks can be quite difficult to conduct.

What you can do to ensure your application is processed as fast as it can be

  • Fill up your application properly: it sounds obvious, but a lot of people think “oh, I’m not sure what to say here… they will figure it out”. No, “they” won’t. Your application will be sent back and your will waste time. It may take you a week or two months to complete your application, but do it seriously. It pays out.
  • Send all the documents required: it should go without saying. If for some reason, you really can’t provide a document, send a letter explaining why. I did that for our marriage certificate, after learning it would take as long as 6 months to receive it. I send my application and explained why I would send the certificate later and it was no problem.
  • Inform your local office or any change: if you move, don’t forget to inform your visa office! Some application take years to be processed and applicants’ lives can change a lot meanwhile: some get married, some have kids. Inform your visa office fast because they will know anyway.
  • Choose your immigration category wisely: do the online test to make sure you have enough points to apply in the skilled worker category. If you apply in the sponsorship category, make sure you have enough proof that the relationship is genuine. Basically, make your choice obvious, clear and back it up by sending all the supporting documents needed.
  • If you can, choose your visa office: as I mentioned above, some visa offices are much busier than others. If you apply outside Canada, unfortunately, you must apply in the country you live in. But if you are already in Canada, you may apply from within Canada, or from outside Canada. I had the choice for example between applying in Buffalo NY or in Paris. At the time, Buffalo was extremely busy and I was advised to apply in Paris, which paid off since my application was processed really fast!
  • Only contact your visa office when you are past the average processing time: whenever CIC communicates with you, it always indicates the average length of a step (for example 3 to 6 months, 5 to 7 months etc.). If you are past the average processing time, you are welcome to contact them. I personally did it twice, once in person at the Canadian embassy in Paris (for my permanent residence application) and once on the phone (for my citizenship application). Both times, my application status was checked and I received news shortly after. On the other side, don’t contact visa office and complain if you are not past the this average processing time: it’s a waste of immigration officers’ time and you won’t get any special treatment, no matter how loud you complain.

Two myths…

Immigrating through Quebec is faster: as I explained in If You Immigrate to Quebec, the process to settle in the province is slightly different. A lot of French-speakers think it is always faster and easier to go through Quebec. The truth is, it really depends. Going through Quebec means an additional step (the CSQ) and there are backlogs. It all depends on when you apply and your personal situation, but it is not necessarily faster, especially that now, immigrating to Quebec is quite popular.

Immigration consultants can speed up my application: no, they can’t. A good and honest immigration representative will always tell you that they cannot speed up the process, so be very careful with those who claim they can. The only thing they can do is make sure your application is filled up properly, that no documents are missing… etc. Basically, things you can do by yourself.

Good luck!


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Hi.
    I recently got through a online assessment form in for Quebec immigration. and got a reply of being selected. After that I got a call from a law firmt from Canada about my further movement. I have to pay 950 usd for processing to start and 4000 usd till pr. I am confused about it. I am in regular content with the law firm. Further I have academic ielts score of 7 . is academic ielts considered in Quebec as the agent told me. and can I move any state from Quebec once I get a pr? Please do help me if I should continue or not?

    • I think the fee required are those the law firm charge but not the immigration fees. You are paying a lot of money for something you could do alone. I wouldn’t recommend using a law firm if your case is straightforward.

      One you are a landed immigrant, you can live anywhere you want in Canada, you don’t have to stay in Quebec.

  2. Hi,

    I applied for permanent residence in Canada under Quebec Skilled Worker. I already got my CSQ last year(April 2015). My application was started to process under Federal stage last December 2015 and now waiting for our Medical schedule. Could you please give me some idea when we can receive the medical request from the immigration since it has been 5 months passed and yet we are still waiting. My application was processed here in Middle East. Thank you so much.

  3. Firas Alawar on


    I have a sponsorship file in the Canadian embassy in Lebanon to Quebec the still being processed, although the missed my file then they made an interview with me about 2 hours on 1 June 2016 and after the officer did not give an obvious answer and told me that he will send me an application to fill after several weeks and i have 30 days to resend it, i asked him how much time exactly in order to know what to do, but he did not answer obviously, now please do you have any information about this case or do you know someone who was on the same situation like me ? thank you in advance

    • I’m not sure I understand your situation. So you were interviewed as part of the sponsorship process and the agent told you a decision would be made later?

      • Firas Alawar on

        The officer told me that he will send an application or something similar and i have 30 days to resend it to him, do you think this will be decision , shall i have to resend a decision, so from this point i have a doubt that the application he has to send is a not a decision, do you have any thoughts please?

  4. I am a Nigerian, do not know anyone in Canada but I sincerely want to migrate to Canada how do I go about this without connecting through an agent. Can the procedure be done single handedly?

  5. Nour EL Din Megahed on


    It is very kind of you to share your experience and give that much of insightful information and recommendation to others.

    I would like your advice please as I have applied for a Permanent residence through the skilled worker program before the express entry program was introduced. Unfortunately, my application was being processed at that time and I was told that Express entry applicants will be given more priority over skilled worker programs. My application was received on December 2014 and the CIC sent it to the London visa office in 29 of Jan 2015 to be validated.

    Till now my application is showing as in process and being processed by the london visa office. I definitely sure that I exceeded the average waiting time. Therefore, I tried to contact the visa office in London through their email many times but I didn’t receive any answer on the status of my application

    I was hoping if you can provide any useful information why applications take that much time and in my situation how can I get any response from the visa office in london responsible to processing those applications?


    • Hi,
      I’m sorry to hear that but I can’t add anything helpful. Processing times are only average and I’m guessing the London visa office is busy. There isn’t much to do but wait.

  6. I’m an American citizen and Canada is one of my choices to move. I filled out a survey and some lawyer from a website not connected to the CIC informed me that my best bet would be to have a job lined up first. If I do that, since I’m an American can I apply for things when I get there? Would that NAFTA allow that?

    Of course, I have other options opened.

    • I don’t know much about the specific of NAFTA regarding immigration, but as far as I know, unless you are invited to come over for a specific job or role, Americans apply for permanent residence like everybody else.

      I would disagree with the lawyer, it’s incredibly difficult to secure a job if you aren’t always in Canada with a work visa or the permanent residence. This doesn’t apply to a few specific fields though, I’m talking in general.

      Your best bet is to see if you qualify as a skilled worker and all the info is online,

  7. hi,

    I applied for Canadian study permit. the average processing time for London office is 2wks. mine will be 1month next week. should I contact them?

    • Depends on your visa office but yes, as a general rule I do find processing times are on average longer than they used to be. More applicants too, I think…

  8. Hi zhu

    Im from Philippines and im working here in taiwan, actually my mom is in canada right now and she want me to go there too, actually i already done my medical last APRIL 2016 and im waiting for my visa request from immigration, and my question is how long is the processing time?


  9. Hi Zhu!

    Thanks for this informative blog. I just want to ask, I’m waiting for my Canadian visa to arrive and it really takes so long. I’ve been waiting for 6 months already while my friends who process the same date as mine got their visas in just 2 weeks! I sent an email (on the 5th month) about the whereabouts about my visa and they answered me to wait for another 90-120 days , OMG! So, that would be around 10 months of waiting for eternity! If they would release that long, why don’t they have alternatives in which they would return my passport, because in this case, they took me my privilege to travel because my passport was stock in the embassy! Can I file a complain after this?

    • I don’t know the complaint process so I can’t advise you. I don’t even know what kind of visa you applied for, but generally, timelines depend on your specific application so as tempting as it is, you can’t really compare yours to other people. Keeping your passport for 10 months wouldn’t make any sense though, and I’ve never heard of this happening. Is that for a tourist visa?

  10. Hello,

    The current status of mon projet quebec after payment processing is showing as “WAITING FOR TREATMENT”. I am submitted my file on 13th june 2016. what does it mean? Should I start gathering documents according to the list available on immigration website or should I wait for the PERSONALISED CHECKLIST? how much time do they take to send checklist? anybody who got his checklist ?

    Your help will be highly appreciated.

    Thank you

    • I have no idea. I think it means just that, your file hasn’t been processed yet. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to start gathering the documents you know you will need!

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